January 22, 2009
President Obama's First Message To The Nation
"doublethink": "The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary."(Nineteen Eight-Four, George Orwell)
The core message of President Obama's first address to the nation was this: Americans must grow-up and become responsible.
That parent-to-child message was surrounded by an assortment of free-standing quips, crudely stitched together with non sequitur threads, all in an effort to etch memorable quotes into the granite of our collective memory.
Some will argue that, like Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the full majesty of his words will only be appreciated later, seen through the prism of history. Others may compare it to the speech that preceded Lincoln's that day in 1863, offering too many oratorical flourishes. The ultimate jury is not yet born.
Coupling Paul's first letter to the early church at Corinth with words from the Declaration of Independence, President Obama said, "the time has come to set aside childish things" and carry forward the "God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."
Lincoln more accurately quoted the Declaration of Independence at Gettysburg when he spoke of a nation "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." The difference between "are equal" and "are created equal" is crucial to understanding President Obama's "work of remaking America."
His goal is to bring about a more equivalent consequence to each citizen's life, liberty and pursuit of happiness through federal interventions that move the government beyond its role as protector of those truths to aggressive arbiter of equalized outcomes. Also known as spreading the wealth.
"Nothing philosophically new here since the introduction of the Income Tax and Social Security," you say. Sure, but what is new is the scope and intensity of the government interventions planned by the Obama Administration.
Here's one brief glance into the mindset that will fuel Obama's remaking of America.
Gene Sperling is one of sixty-plus contributors to Change For America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, by Mark Green and Michele Jolin. The 665-pages book is a collaboration between John Podesta's (Co-chair of Obama's transition team, and President Clinton's former Chief of Staff) think tank, the Center for American Progress, and the New Democracy Project. These professional policy wonks are the shining stars among the brain-trust cadre of Obama's New New Dealers.
Sperling, who was President Clinton's National Economic Adviser and Director of the National Economics Council, writes (pp. 68-70),
"Our nation's social compact has never been spelled out in a constitutional amendment or even a commercial contract. Yet this implicit contract is built around a few core principles: A career of hard work should commend respect at the workplace, provide health care for your family and a secure retirement, and give you a chance to send your children to college so that they might lead a better life. Today, however, playing by what Americans thought were the rules too often means that a 30-year-old computer programmer is suddenly uncompetitive in the global economy, or a couple just entering retirement after working hard for four decades has to move into their child's cramped basement due to rising health costs...If Costco can provide one-stop shopping for life's day-by-day necessities, then the government should be able to have a single toll-free number and one-stop centers that handle all re-employment issues, from job search, to training, to health, mortgage, and unemployment insurance. Such a one-stop shop could move us toward the consumer-oriented government that former Vice President Al gore has championed."
Enter the idea of the federal government as the nation's giant Human Resources department. Exit the notion that, if it's not an essential job of government, it's essential the government not do it.
President Obama said, "Its [the market's] power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."
Hold it. The mortgage credit market imploded, triggering a worldwide financial crisis, because Congress manipulated the lending policies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make mortgages available to those unable to make payments, thereby guaranteeing default. Did this favor "only the prosperous" (excepting Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson)? Of course not, and to imply that it did is Orwellian doublethink.
In 1962, the late (d. 2007) Nobel Prize winner in economics, Milton Friedman, wrote,
"[T]oday, governmental measures constitute the major impediments to economic growth in the United States...What we urgently need, for both economic stability and growth, is a reduction of government intervention, not an increase." (Capitalism And Freedom, p.38.)
Still true today. But under an Obama Presidency, we'll move in a direction opposite from what Friedman advocated, as we're asked to place our trust not in ourselves, but in government interventions.
Yet, who did Obama summon to grow-up and become responsible? Who are the sources of "petty grievances and false promises...recriminations, and worn out dogmas that for long have strangled our politics"? Who did not "spend wisely," and used "bad habits," failing to do "our business in the light of day"? Who failed to keep a "watchful eye" on the market?
None on Main Street. A few on Wall Street. Most at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's not Americans that need to grow-up and be responsible. It's our elected officials, from both parties.
And who, now, is it that will fix America?
In his acceptance speech for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Obama said, "You understand that, in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same, old politics with the same, old players and expect a different result." Today, the Obama Administration's leadership lineup is replete with "the same, old players" from the Clinton Administration, even the Clinton family.
So who is that doesn't understand "the greatest risk"?
Doublethink - it abounds.